Competition: A Personal Inspirational Journey
As the national competitions are drawing closer this year, I feel it’s the right time to share a personal reason as to why I think it’s important to keep competing to stay relevant in our beloved industry.
Trophy? Who doesn’t want it? Growing up, I just saw it being earned whole-heartedly and patiently year after year by my father, who was playing golf competitively in tournaments. All of the trophies he won were neatly displayed inside the cabinet in our living room, and they always came with prizes and perks. He has since stopped playing golf due to his age and winning a total of 17 trophies! His achievement is my inspiration in all the things I do in all my careers.
When my husband and I founded Dutch Colony Coffee Co. in 2013 at a farmer’s market in Singapore, joining a competition and winning a trophy was a far-fetched imagination. We started a small coffee joint as a retirement plan, just like any other naïve-people would think, that opening a cafe was a good plan 😆
Let alone participating in a championship and winning a trophy, the thought of sustaining the business itself was pretty overwhelming back then for us, and it is still very challenging even today. To add the pressure, I juggled between running the coffee shop and property-agent job while my husband still holding on to his full-time corporate job.
Despite the far-fetched imagination to win a trophy, we kept sending our staffs for national competitions. The idea was to stay connected with the industry, to allow them to gain experience, to get better, and quietly in my heart, I wish we could win something. However, after so many unsuccessful attempts and inspired by my father’s golf journey, in 2016 I entered my first coffee competition, in national cup taster championship category. To be honest, I just wanted to win a trophy and to put my best effort and strong-will to win a championship.
After managing the business for three years, and after coming out of the biggest challenges in our business (that my partners said can be put in our memoirs when we are ready to write one) and with a little better coffee experience through attending many cupping sessions that we conduct weekly, learning from the best in the industry and coaching from my awesome business partner, I continue to treat every training session as if it were my first competition. Every set is another game, another challenge. Least I expected, I clinched the 2nd runner-up position in my first competition in 2016, bringing home our company’s very first trophy.
Excited with what I accomplished in 2016 and determine to win a championship, I joined the competition again in 2017 with bigger expectation, but it was a disappointing year. I didn’t go to the next round in the competition and it got me thinking if I have what it takes to win.
The thought of losing is unpleasant and is discouraging, but as a business owner, I have been disappointed with the lack of effort by some of our past team members who competed and yes, I have said it again that I would love a trophy but it would have been easier to swallow the fact that we went trophy-less if at least a trophy-worthy effort and performance was put. At the same time there was something in me wanting to proof to our team who has light-years of experience ahead of me, that this industry is very acceptance and any one with passion, dedication, and hard-work can progress and move to a higher level.
In 2018, I again competed in the same championship category and this year was particularly different where I had better training plan, have a coach who pushed me to the limit and have sparing partners who keep giving me feedback, sharing their strategies and encouragement. The competition itself had gained more expert competitors, some are national champions of different categories and some had been in the industry for the longest time I ever remember.
This year was a good year and I won the National Cup Tasters Championship and represented Singapore in the world championship in Brazil. It was really a whole new level of experience altogether to compete with best of the best from other countries and representing Singapore in the world stage. Winning the championship in 2018 was also a timely blessing with us celebrating the 5th Anniversary. We couldn't ask for a better gift than winning this championship and bringing back the trophy.
There were tremendous supports from friends, families, the awesome team back at home, and all of these supports just made me wanted to do well and winning the world championship trophy. I started the training months earlier, got on strict non-spicy food diet (which was very tormenting for me!), my coach and training partners developed variety of training scenarios and techniques to prepare me and boy, I thought I was ready to conquer the world 😁
On the competition day, I was so ready, I thought with all of the preparation, I would be ready to bring the back the trophy, but boy I was wrong. I was competing with those who have represented their country for multiple times, world-stage was they playground and they were not just accurate, but fast with their results. My journey in the world competition, stopped in the first round of the competition. Devastated, disappointed, ranked 33 out of 39. That was the fact I had to accept.
However, I told myself whatever the result is, I will continue competing and aiming for world winning trophy. Although, honestly, the thought of not joining the next competition ever came across my mind just because of the disappointing result in the world competition, but one thing that keep me back on track is the fresh image of priceless expression of my father came back home with his winning trophy. This inspired me to keep competing and to win. I hope one fine day, someone else might be inspired by the journey I take.
With this, I call for time. See you in the next competition and all the very best those competing in 2019 championships!
Post 2018 World Cup Tasters Championship Note:
I would like share other valuable experience from the trip to the world championship in Brazil. Despite the disappointing result, the world competition opened up opportunities to connect with other competitors and other players in the industry. It allowed us to meet the producers from Brazil whom we have worked with for many years and meeting them face-to-face was just inspirational. We visited their farms, talked to them on how we used their coffees, and that allowed us to appreciate more our relationship at the farm level.
We also met new producers from other country who brought some samples of their coffee that we decided to use in this year’s brewers cup competition. From this trip, we got connected with various equipment manufacturers that opened up opportunities to discuss some improvements and upgrading works in our pipeline.
Bottom line is, this world-stage competition allowed us opportunity to network with people who share the same passion, and personally allows me to meet those who have inspired me in this industry and opened up opportunity that we never thought of possible.